"The two great political parties in America represent only one English party, the middle-class Liberal party, the party of industrialism and freedom," H.G. Wells once observed. "There are no Tories…and no Labor Party….All Americans are, from the English point of view, Liberals of one sort or another."
Partisans on both sides today seem intent on proving Wells wrong. A self-identified socialist, Bernie Sanders, is one of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, while conservative thinkers such as Notre Dame's Patrick Deneen explicitly place Enlightenment values in their intellectual crosshairs. But as leading lights of left and right try to outdo each other dumping on classical liberalism, presidential historian Richard Brookhiser reminds us just how inextricably the liberal concept of political freedom is woven into the American idea.
In Give Me Liberty, a 13-part podcast from National Review based on Brookhiser's new book of the same name, he and election historian Luke Thompson discuss the origins of American exceptionalism. Each episode examines an important "document" from the last 400 years—from the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance, which set the stage for religious tolerance as we know it, to the Gettysburg Address, to Emma Lazarus' paean to immigration, "The New Colossus" (source of the famous line "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"). Whatever the specific topic under consideration, the major takeaway is, as Thompson puts it, that "America is a story with liberty at its heart."